Our sub-conscious assumptions, poor idea selling, and lack of staying power kills organisational innovation

Yesterday, I had the privilege of hearing Professor Costas Markides from London Business School speak on innovation. Here are five key things you need to know about innovation. 1. Assumptions kill creativity. Assumptions are implicit and sub-conscious. As a consultant, I need to both challenge my own assumptions and help others to challenge their assumptions. Note that it’s all very well to tell someone to “think outside the box”, but if the box is our everyday sub-conscious assumptions, then we actually we can’t see the box. “Where is the box?” becomes a first critical question to enable innovation. As businesses seeking to innovate, we need to ask the following questions: “Who really is the customer? What am I really selling? How really should we compete in this market? What business are we really in?” 2. The Knowledge Doing Gap. A critical problem is that people and organisations usually know what to do, but they don’t actually do it. A “burning platform” gets people moving in all directions but doesn’t deliver innovation. A compelling vision gets people to agree on the future but doesn’t necessarily deliver consistent momentum. To create aligned momentum and innovation, organisations need a positive crisis. Instead of framing change either as a threat or an opportunity, you need to frame change and innovation challenges as both threat and opportunity. Frame both threat and opportunity at the same time – create a Positive Crisis3. Create/change the organisational environment in order to deliver innovation. Research has found that while 30% of behaviour is determined by personality, 70% of behavior is determined by social context. For example, we expect others to do something about a situation rather than ourselves. So change/shape the environment to encourage innovation. Framing problems is critical to helping innovation.4. Just because it is a good idea doesn’t mean it will catch on. We must also be able to effectively sell the idea to others. Selling effectiveness depends on who is selling, how it is being sold, what is being sold, and who is buying. In order to foster/deliver innovation, we need to ask ourselves how credible we are. We need to minimize disruption, and to lead by example.5. Small changes in social context, and/or your behavior, can have a major impact on people and organisations. Don’t try to change the world, or to implement ‘big bang’ innovation. Instead, act your way into a new way of thinking. Use pilots, make work fun, implement in a unit/team and expand from there!

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